Middle school. That's when I first noticed her existence.
Up until then, she had been no more than another presence in the crowd of faceless people. I didn't care about them. And I didn't care to find out more about them.
It was a month or so until the end of our last year as middle-schoolers. A normal day like any other. Dull, boring, repetitive.
A teacher called her over. It must've been something important. She ran over and listened. Then her face turned shocked. And scared. She was gone soon after.
She didn't appear on the next day. Or the day after. Then a week. And then a month. Nowhere to be found. Even as the school year ended, there was no trace of her.
I still didn't care.
But they talked.
Every break, for a few days after.
"She still hasn't come back..."
"Yeah... But I get it. It's such a tragedy."
"Huh? You know what happened?"
"You haven't heard? Her parents were both ghoul investigators. They were brutally attacked and murdered that day. Their corpses were barely recognizable..."
"I thought ghouls ate people?"
"They do. But this time, they must've attacked them as revenge."
I wouldn't wanna eat someone who hunts my own kind either.
Ghoul investigators are a pain in the ass. Good riddance, if you were to ask me.
I myself don't go hunting people for fun. Not usually, that is.
But I would be lying if I said I was against the killing of those goddamn doves.
Come year end, and everything was swiftly forgotten. That girl faded from my mind. Not that she should've ever been there in the first place.
There was someone in my class I didn't get along with. I despised him.
So I decided it was best to find a high-school far away from him. And I did.
It was an uneventful couple of months.
And then I went back to school. All those humans were damn annoying. But it was better than being suspicious for not going to school at all.
On the first day, I was surprised.
Come to think of it, it's not that I didn't expect it. It's rather that I never even thought about it.
She was here.
Different school, different people, different place. Yet here she was, for the first time in months.
She was smiling. But it was a heavy smile. It hid a lot. Not that I cared to find out what.
She fit in at once. All the other girls swarmed her, eager introductions, stupid talk. So mundane.
"Hey, what do you all think about ghouls?"
I hated hearing that question. Wonder how many would shit their pants if they ever found out there was one hiding right beneath their noses?
I wanted to tune them out. I really did. But I couldn't help but listen.
One said she didn't believe in them. Most agreed they were mindless murderers and monsters to be feared. This was why I hated teenage girls.
One reply stood out though.
"I don't know. Perhaps they aren't all that bad? You know, if you were to pick one person to represent humanity, you wouldn't pick some serial killer now, would you? As crazy as it sounds, those binge-eater ghouls and whatnot we hear about on TV might be only some vocal minority? Perhaps some of them live with us. In peace, you know?"
And then they all laughed at her.
I still didn't give a shit about her. But damn, did my respect for her grow just barely with this.
Few were as open-minded as she was. Then again, she was being a naive dumbass too. Too hopeful and trusting for her own good.
At the time, I wondered how her classmates would've reacted if they knew what she had been through just a few months prior.
After that, she kinda faded into the background once again. She wasn't faceless anymore. But that’s about it.
It's been about a year since then. It's now our second year in high school and she's still here. So am I. So is everyone else. No matter how much I wish they weren't.
What a funny pair we were. A ghoul. And the daughter of two ghoul investigators, brutally murdered a year and a half ago.
I don't think we've ever actually spoken. Nothing more than some random 'Hey, you got a spare pencil?' or 'Did you catch what the teacher was saying just now?'
Funny how our fates were meant to intertwine.
It was ironic.
But it was an irony I've learned to love.
You couldn't help but stare. You knew it was rude. But you just couldn't shake the feeling.
After all, who the hell transferred schools in the middle of the year!? What was this guy even thinking?
As the teacher blabbered on about yet another lesson you'd have to memorize by yourself at home anyway, you couldn't tear your eyes away from the blond assigned a seat a little ways in front and to the side of you.
His hair was soft, parted down the side and not too long – overall, a hairstyle sported by quite the number of guys in your class. Though you had to admit – blond wasn't an all that common color. So it stood out, only shared by a handful of other students around you.
His eyes were light and blue, deep yet lost and distraught. His face was soft – you hadn't seen him make an expression other than a smile. But it was a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Even you had to admit it though – he was attractive. Not a sensational beauty by any means, but still too pretty not to note.
Once the bell had rung, he had been surrounded by a few curious boys and a desperate girl or two. But he had been all too kind to them, never turning down a question and easily fitting in.
So you listened. And you got your answers.
"Why? Ah, you see, it was my parents' choice. I live quite close to those recent ghoul attacks. They happened right around the corner of my old school. When my old man learned about them, he said I had to change schools. Actually, if this binge-eater isn't caught soon, we might move house too."
Legend has it, if you talked long enough, the topic was bound to come up. You knew all too well.
Binge-eaters might've been the scariest of them all.
If a ghoul could survive an entire month by feeding on a single human, then why were there those who murdered just for fun?
You didn't need such dark thoughts now though. So you shook your head and continued on with your day.
And then the next one. And the one after that. And so, a week went by.
By this point, the new student – Monoma Neito, fit right in as if he had been there from the start. To you, he was now just another classmate.
That's why, when he approached you one day, you were left speechless.
"A... a date!?" you exclaimed, face flushing a dark red.
"Yes! You're absolutely gorgeous, [L/N]-san – I'd love to get the chance to go out with you!" he pleaded, complimenting you like few had before.
"Ah, I'm sorry, this is just a little sudden is all!" His expression fell, a look of sudden guilt passing by his features.
"Oh, did I put you on the spot just now? I'm so sorry, please forgive me. Don’t worry – I don't mind if you reject. A simple proposal – that's all this is!" But you thought. And thought.
You had never been asked out on a date by such an attractive and kind person. Surely, it couldn't hurt...
"Um, no… It's… it’s okay, Monoma-kun – I... I accept. Um, what I mean is, I wouldn't mind going on a date with you..." you mumbled, feeling yourself growing shier by the minute. Monoma jumped in excitement, smiling wider than before.
"This is amazing! Thank you, [L/N]-san! Oh, can I call you [L/N]-chan instead?"
"S-sure!" you managed to squeak out.
"Is today after school okay? At about 7PM? I know it's dark but I'll wait for you at the station so don't worry. I'll even walk you home if you need me to!"
"Y-yeah, sounds good."
And that is how you somehow got yourself a date with what was arguably one of the most well-liked people in your class. You'd be lying if you said you weren't looking forward to it. Perhaps this was your fateful encounter all along.
You never noticed the pair of crimson eyes on you.
You glanced at your watch, fixing up your knee-length casual dress one last time before the oncoming train stopped before you.
At 6.30 PM, you climbed onto it, your heart beating in excitement at the thought of the night ahead. You didn't know what to expect. But you couldn't wait.
Admittedly, you soon realized you probably shouldn't have worn heels when you had half an hour of traveling ahead of you. For God knew if you'd be able to find a place to sit.
You scanned around, eyes falling upon an empty seat, the one beside it occupied by a person clad in mostly black, with a hint of red peeking out beneath his dark button-up. His hair was what stood out to you though. After all, you were quite familiar with the spiky blond you happened upon.
"Hey, Bakugo-kun, fancy running into you here!" you smiled as you approached him, motioning to the empty seat beside him as he shuffled closer to the window to give you the space you needed. Nodding to express your gratitude, you sat down next to him, looking around to give the boy his peace. Yet your mind kept wandering in circles, returning to him once again.
"So... Where are you heading to...?" you asked, striking up some small talk for what you realized was the first time with someone you had spent years in the same class with. He glanced at you, turning to look out of the window soon after.
"Second ward, central stop. Got some business with some family." Your eyes widened, lips curling up into a smile.
"Ah, what a coincidence! That's where I'm going too! Surely you wouldn't mind the company until then?"
"Whatever. What's a little girl doing at a dangerous ward like that anyway?" he asked, unbeknownst to you already knowing the answer. Nonetheless, you pouted.
"I'm not a child, you know. Plus, I'm not gonna be alone once I get there!" You might've just imagined it, but for a second there, you felt as if his gaze had hardened into a glare.
Half an hour had passed by like half a minute, as you found yourself enjoying Bakugo's company, despite never having actually spoken to him much before.
When your stop came around, you both made haste to the exit, stepping aside to let the other passengers get off once you were already out. Seeing the train depart once more, you turned to Bakugo, hands behind your back, as you smiled at him.
"Thank you for letting me talk to you like this! It was really enjoyable! See you tomorrow!"
"Yeah. Now go," he grumbled, eyes focused somewhere behind you, lingering on you even after you turned around to find the boy who'd be accompanying you waving to you from the distance, as you ran over to him, saying one last bye to Bakugo.
"Sorry for being late, Monoma-kun. Hope you weren't waiting long!" you spoke, waving hello to the blond. He laughed.
"What are you talking about? It's been what, a minute or two?" You laughed with him. "May I add, you look even more gorgeous than usual! You didn't have to outdo yourself like that!" You blushed, almost hiding your face behind your hands right there and then.
"Ah, thank you... You look great as well though! I had to match!" You knew you weren't good at this whole dating thing. Nor at the conversation thing for that matter. But you'd be damned if you didn't at least try.
"You flatter me, my lady!" He bent down to kiss your hand, smirking upon noticing the increasing level of red adorning your cheeks.
"Aw, stop it! That's just embarrassing!" He only laughed at your helpless squeals though.
"Shall we go, my lady?" he asked, giving in.
"Only if you drop the ‘my lady’ part," you smirked back, trying your hardest to be firm despite the quiver in your voice.
"If you insist."
He set off, walking a bit of ways ahead of you. You realized it might be out of consideration, as you were sure you might have trouble remaining conscious if he offered you to hold his hand too. You smiled at the kind gesture.
"Oh, that reminds me – what was that guy doing here with you?" Monoma suddenly stopped, turning towards you with eyes that, at first glance were full of curiosity. The longer you looked at them though, the more you had this feeling that they hid something else you couldn't quite place.
"You mean Bakugo-kun? We just ran into each other on the train is all. He said he had some family business in the area," you mumbled, keeping up with your date's pace, who was now walking beside you once again. "Oh, I forgot!"
You jumped, scrambling to quickly find your phone. Monoma stared at you in surprise, as you shuffled through the tissues, keys, even a few random pens you carried for reasons you may never know, finally finding the smartphone buried at the bottom of your small purse. You swiftly typed on the keys, a text message sent in just a few brief seconds.
After all, you had forgotten to wish Bakugo a nice time with his family.
"...ding ground, that bastard," was the first thing you heard from Monoma once you put your phone away, head tilting in confusion.
"What was that again?" you asked, ashamed you hadn't payed attention to what the boy who’d been so kind as to propose a date to you had been saying. Then again, the way he’d spoken as if to himself, perhaps you weren't meant to hear it.
"Huh? Ah, hanging around – you know, would you mind hanging around a little before we go somewhere for dinner?" he asked, face contorting in a sweet smile a tad too sharply for your liking, leaving you to cringe a little. Though you quickly brushed it off.
"Sure. I'm not all that hungry yet anyway."
"Oh, good for you. I'm kinda starving though," Monoma muttered once again, a sense of dread filling you. Not that you knew why. There was just… something strange about his actions. But you thought it could’ve been just your imagination – after all, a dark street late in the night was sure to make a girl think some strange thoughts, no?
You shook your head, trusting the kind blond and shrugging off his weird behavior. Everyone had their quirks, after all. His just so happened to be kinda off-putting.
Instead, you took to looking at the streets around you, the two of you sitting in a silence you couldn't quite place the nature of quite yet – was it a comfortable one? Or perhaps the opposite? It was quickly getting late and the second ward was, admittedly, a dangerous one for certain. Not only was it overflowing with ghouls and investigators left and right, it was also home to the frequent attacks of a binge-eater in the recent weeks.
You would've been afraid if you had been on your own. But with a partner beside you and a slew of people walking nearby, you felt at ease.
Huh? Well, you could swear there were people walking all around you just a few minutes ago. It was the center area of the ward – it should've been busy, even this late at night.
Something seemed odd.
The area you were in seemed familiar.
But you'd never been to the second ward before, at least if your memory was to be trusted? Where had you seen those buildings?
You were sure you'd never seen them in person at the very least. On the TV then? Online?
Where though? News or something? Hm...
'...ding ground, that bastard.'
You stopped, an icy shiver running down your spine, your heartbeat faltering for a second, only to come back faster than ever, echoing loudly in your ears.
Walking around? That wasn't what he'd said. No way.
"Feeding ground..." you whispered, breath hitching at once, along with your walking, as you stood in place, eyes wide and staring straight ahead.
Monoma stopped too. But he didn't turn to face you. Yet you couldn't stop yourself.
"The streets are empty... It's so quiet... Because this is your feeding ground..." Every new word you spoke was another mistake to push you to your early grave.
Only then did Monoma turn to face you. But you couldn't see his eyes, covered by his hair as his shoulders shook a few times. And then he laughed.
He laughed like a madman.
And laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
"Ahahaha, I got myself a smart girl, didn't I?" he exclaimed, straightening up to face you. This time however, you could see his eyes.
They were nothing like the calm blue hues you had admired a mere week ago. They were now black, the small red irises inside filling you with dread. You were terrified.
Never in your life had you been so hopeful to be wrong. Yet never in your life had you been more right.
In a brief second, you saw a colorful blur whiz by you, only now realizing that figuring it out was but the beginning of a night you might not even survive.
So, you ran.
And ran, and ran, and ran.
Not looking back even once, already knowing what awaited you. A ghoul's kagune – the predatory organ that grew out from their back, one which they used to hunt their pray, murdering them mercilessly and tearing them to pieces.
You didn't want to look back.
But you were soon forced to. For all your running couldn't save you.
A sharp pain stabbed right through your shoulder. So sharp in fact, you couldn't hold the scream that tore its way out of your throat, echoing across the surrounding area, in sync with the sound of droplets of blood splattering onto the ground.
It hurt. It hurt so badly. You'd never felt such pain before. And you feared soon you wouldn't be able to feel at all.
The pain increased when the tendril stabbed through your shoulder yanked you back, your body landing roughly, back slamming against the wall, only making you cry out in pain again.
Your vision was quickly blurring yet you could still make out the person- no, the creature slowly making its way towards you. His face was just a blob of color until he knelt before your trembling frame, eyeing you with a twisted smile. Beside his foot, you could see the purse you had been carrying, now discarded on the ground, all your belongings scattered about in an ugly mess.
He opened his mouth to speak, yet you ignored him, desperately reaching out for the small blue ballpoint pen beside your outstretched arm, as its clear barrel blurred in and out of sight.
The ghoul stopped and watched you with a simple curiosity, much like that of a child laughing at the insect it held captive, knowing it would not be able to escape, but only meet a painful end. He found your futile attempts so humorous, he mocked them out loud.
"What do you think you're doing, doll? A pen isn't gonna help you. Unless you want to stab yourself with it? I don't intend to give you that satisfaction." You still didn't look at him. Pen now grasped in your trembling hand, your eyes shifted to the kagune beside you, a tendril much like the one still stabbed through your own body.
"Oh?" he spoke again, tone still mocking, as he laughed. "You want to stab my kagune? Go ahead, try it."
But you knew better. Kagune couldn't be stabbed just like that. Not even with a knife. You couldn't hope to pierce it with a bullet, let alone a pen.
Because that's what happened when you attacked a ghoul straight on.
No, what they were weak against was something else.
You held the pen sideways, thrusting it as hard as your weakening body would allow. The ghoul realized his mistake a second too late.
You could still inflict those, even on a ghoul.
As the pen connected and stabbed through the top layer of the kagune, lodging itself within it at an unnatural angle, he cried out in a mix of pain and fury, the tendril keeping you captive disappearing as more fresh blood poured out from the now widely-open wound.
Your senses were weakening. But in this moment, all you had to do was to survive. So you ran. Again.
This time, he didn't chase after you. Not at first.
And you knew he was playing a game. You knew he could catch you the moment he so wished. He wanted to give you a glimpse of hope, to make you think you could escape, only to drag you back down just when you thought you’d reached salvation.
Even still, you ran.
You were playing into his game.
But as things stood now, that was your only chance at survival.
"I saw how you looked at her just now. I'm warning you – you've had your chance, and you wasted it. She's my prey now so you stay out of the way."
"I don't give a fuck what you plan to do. But the child of two CCG investigators ain't the best prey you could wish for."
"What are you talking about – she's perfect. Aren't I doing all my fellow ghouls a favor? After all, she'd just become another dove the moment she steps foot into the real world. I'll just get rid of her before it comes to that."
"Tch. I told you – I don't give a fuck. Do whatever it is you wanna do."
Bakugo thought back to the conversation he'd had with the girl's 'date' (though he knew better) just earlier that day, shortly after he'd invited her to go out with him.
He'd known the goddamn new guy was a ghoul the moment he'd walked in. The bastard had reeked of death and corpses. He despised how he had clicked in with everyone else right away too.
Frankly, he didn't have any family business in the second ward. As a matter of fact, his stop had been the fourth one, where his home and a certain cafe were.
Yet when [F/N] had climbed in with him, as unexpected as it may have been, he'd suddenly changed his destination to what he'd heard her meet-up spot with that wretched ghoul to be.
He had zero intention of stopping whatever was about to go down.
So then… why was he still hesitating to leave!?
He had heard the screams soon enough. And he had grit his teeth through them, walking away.
Ghouls weren't supposed to feel compassion for humans, after all.
He had walked. And he kept walking.
And suddenly, a pair of frantic footsteps and someone's ragged breath sounded from just around the corner. A body collided with his back, sending him tumbling a few steps forward.
Something crumbled to the ground beside him, his eyes turning to the bleeding girl in his feet, as he stared at her collapsed frame in shock.
[F/N], on the other hand, coughed a couple of times, clutching at her wounded shoulder, as she leaned upon her elbows, crawling forward through the pain. It was a pitiful sight to behold.
The girl raised her head, tears streaming down her scuffed cheeks. As her eyes met Bakugo's crimson ones, her face flooded with relief.
But that relief was soon washed away, replaced with a sense of absolute terror, only increasing the longer she looked at the ash blond.
He was confused. Why was she scared of him?
Wait, scratch that. Why was she even still alive!?
"You..." she began, voice trembling with every sound. Bakugo looked at her, unmoving. "I know..." She made a move to get up, yet crumbled back onto the ground, her ragged breaths more frantic than before. At a loss for where to go, she crawled back, to the furthest she could go, leaning up against the wall as her watery eyes looked on in fear at the sight of the boy towering above her.
"You're a ghoul too! I know! I've known for a long time!!" For someone losing blood as quickly as she was, she was shouting, crying out at him as endless tears spilled from her eyes. "How you always seem to drink coffee, how you never eat at lunch break, how you twitch when someone mentions ghouls – all of it!!" Her voice cracked. Then she went quiet, looking down, her shoulders shaking.
"I thought... I thought you were good! You- you're a part of his plan too, aren't you!?" She was crying, voice hoarse, frame trembling, the distressed screams taking all the energy she’d been left with.
Then, she went quiet again, curling onto herself, as her sobs increased, yet her voice died down.
Bakugo grit his teeth. She was right in front of him. Helpless. She blamed him. Why didn't he play the baddie then? Why didn’t he kill her right here and put an end to all this – to both of their misery…?
But... but he just… couldn't…
A new pair of footsteps, this time accompanied by maniacal laughter as opposed to ragged breathing, approached, a hunched humanoid creature with monstrous tendrils protruding from its back soon coming into view, eyes quickly locking onto the two.
He hated it
He hated himself for even thinking of doing it.
And he hated that he was doing it.
But he still did.
"Be fucking grateful, [F/N]. You'll get to live another day."
Your world was still blurring in and out.
Your eyes never adjusting to the black spots quickly clouding your view.
You were ready to meet your end.
Was it going to be Monoma? Or perhaps Bakugo?
Whichever it was, you regretted to be done in by one of those monsters.
You didn't want to let them have this satisfaction.
A pair of feet moved in front of you, blocking your view of the ghoul who had left you severely wounded. You saw the tendrils sprawling out of Bakugo's back as well, and in that moment, you closed your eyes.
Words were exchanged, whether spoken to you or said between the two, you didn't know, the sounds too muffled to distinguish. In that moment, you were only praying that your end would be swift.
You never felt it.
Even minutes later, you were still alive.
You didn’t know what was happening. But you were still too scared to peel your eyes open and find out. Perhaps if this kept going long enough, you’d drift off to sleep before any more misfortune befell you.
So you held your eyes shut. Tightly.
And when a hand touched your shoulder, although it was warm and light, you jumped in fear.
"Oi. Pipe down. You're safe." His voice brought so much comfort. You didn't hear the other monster nearby anymore. So you decided to be hopeful, slowly forcing one eye open, as it met the crimson irises of the ash blond hunched over you, his face tired yet filled with compassion.
Many questions flooded your mind. Why were you alive? Why hadn’t he killed you? What was he doing?
Was he… helping you…?
You tried to speak, but no words came out.
Bakugo sighed, grabbing the arm on your uninjured side and gently hoisting you up, your quivering body leaning up against his sturdy frame. Only then did you note what was behind him, the blood splatters covering the ground and the pieces of kagune scattered about. Though your attacker himself was nowhere in sight.
"He... ran away...?" you managed to croak out, much to Bakugo's surprise. He quickly composed himself and nodded, as he took off the button-up he'd been wearing on top of his black t-shirt, proceeding to tie it around your injured shoulder, earning a couple of groans from your barely-conscious self.
"Yeah. Bastard was quick. Couldn't catch him. Though I doubt he'd ever come near you again. I doubt he'd ever return here in the first place." You relaxed against the boy.
"I'm... such an idiot..."
"You may be an idiot. But what matters is that you're okay now."
"Mhm... Thank you, Bakugo-kun..."
The blond paused, words catching in his throat. Perhaps it was because you were so light-headed. But the way you spoke...
It all felt oh-so ethereal. So removed from reality. So far from all the pain.
The pain he was sure you must've been feeling a lot of right now.
"Hey, I'm gonna bring you somewhere where they'll fix you up," he muttered, taking note of your drooping eyelids.
"Hospital...?" He shook his head.
"Not quite. It's a nice lil' cafe called Yuuei. You might've heard of it."
"Is that so..." you spoke slowly, words dragged out and slurred together, the shock, the pain, the blood loss surely getting to you.
"Right. So I'll see you again when you wake up," he said, lifting you up in his arms.
"Alright... I'm fine with that..." Those were your last words before your eyes shut tight again, breath slowing down to normal.
Right now, Bakugo could only pray that he would get to Yuuei before your time was up.
Then again, he wasn't letting you go this easily.
It was ironic.
A ghoul and a human. The hunted and the daughter of the hunters.
The monster and the prey.
But it was an irony he knew he'd grow to love.
For your journey had only just begun.